Go a bundle
Go a bundle
The pros and cons of getting your phone,
broadband and TV services from one company,
and which company's phone service is the best
Tim Peacock has one of Virgin Media's top-level
bundles and haggling when he signed up saved him
money on its standard billing structure. Virgin Media's
packages can be cheap - but it scored the lowest for
overall bundle satisfaction of all the companies we
have ratings for.
Tim said: 'Virgin's good value for money but, in my
experience, heaven help you if you have a probiem.
For example, at one point my broad band was cut off
andit took abouttwo hoursbeforeIwas put in contact
with someone who could help. Now there's a 25p
a minute phone charge plus 10p connection if I have
problems with broadband - scandalous!'
n 1957, when Which? first started, thanyou'd pay ifyou bought the equivalent
yourtelecoms options were simple.You services separately. The most common
either had a home phone or you option, and the one that's been around the
didn'tand - exceptforKingston-upon- longest, is a home phone and broadband
Hull- the Post Officeran all the phone combination.
lines in the UK. Chances are that the phone
itself came with a rotating dial and plenty
of wire. Cordless phones were but a pipe
dream, let alone phones that you could take
with you when you left the home.
These days you're considered slightly old
fashioned ifyou don't own a mobile phone.
And your home-phone line not only allows
you to chat to your friends and family, but
also lets you surf websites, shop online,
download music and even watch intemet
TV via broadband. It's easy to take for
granted, but the communications options
available to us now were unthinkable a
decade ortwo ago. Look back even a couple of years and, generally speaking, the
way in which you bought telecoms services
was relatively straightforward. You simply
picked each service from the supplier you
liked the best, and that was that.
Ringing the changes
Over the last couple ofyears , however, our
choices have become more complex as
many companies now offer bundIes. These
allowyou to get more than one service from
the same company, usually for a lower price
We explain the common terms that phone and broad band suppliers use
.INCLUSIVE ANYTIME CALLS At any time of
the day or night calls are ineluded in your
monthly tariff. Usually only UK landline calls to
numbers starting 01,02 or 03 areineluded.
.Kbps/Mbps Kiiobits/megabits per second.
A measure of data transfer speed)t takes
about 20 seconds to download a typical 5MB
music track at 2Mbps.
241 October 2007
. MB/GB Megabyte/gigabyte. A measure of
data size. There are 1,024MB in 1GB.See
Which?, August 2007, p40, for details on what
a monthly 2GB cap will let you download.
. LLULocalloop unbundled-
install their own equipment in BT exchanges.
This enables them to offer faster broadband
speeds and lower prices.
Increasingly, companies like BT, Orange
and Virgin Media are bundling in other
services -like digital TV or mobile. In theory,
this has great money-saving potential.
Butwhen no two providers offer exactly the
same deal, it can be tricky to compare bundIes and choose the right option for you.
Read on for the pros and cons of switching to a bundIe, includingwhether existing
bundle customers are satisfied with the
services they're receiving, plus advice on
how to choose the right package for you.
And for those of you who liketo keep it simpIe and justwant a basic home-phone service, check out the results of our latest home
phone satisfaction survey on p27.
Tobundle or not to bundle
Bunclling services together can be a mixed
blessing. On the plus side, you have only
one company to deal with - so less paperwork - and you'll usually get more foryour
money On the minus side:
. the bundIed services may not meet your
exact requirements in the same way as
buying each service separately
. you may not be able to get the bundle
you want. For example, some of Virgin's
best-value deals are available only on cable,
and Sky and TalkTalk's 'free' broadband
deals cost extra if you don't live in an area
where they've installed their own equipment in BT exchanges (LLD)
. you may be tied into a long contract for
all of the services, making it harder to switch
any or all of them
. sometimes low prices seem to come at
the cost oflower satisfaction. Overall satisfaction with bundIes isn't as high as it iswith
our Best Buys for individual services.
Bundles are often competitively priced,
especially if you already use one of the
Whichbundleshould you choose?
We suggest a range of bundles to suit different types of people-- pick the one that sounds
most like you and remember to balance customer satisfaction against cost
Home phone and internet
If you're not bothered about TV or mobile, take a look
at Tiscali. It did well in our bundle satisfaction survey
(see p26) and offers line rental, anytime UK landline
calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers and ten international
destinations, and up to 8Mbps unlimited broadband
for £20 a month in its LLU areas (see 'Jargon buster',
p24). It will cost £8.24 extra outside these areas.
TalkTalk doesn't do so well for
but may be cheaper, depending
where you live. It offers up to 8Mbps broadband
a 40GB cap, anytime calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers,
including line rental, and inclusive calls to many
international destinations for £16.39 a month in LLU
areas or £31.39 a month if you live outside these areas.
Keeping the family happy
Virgin Media's VIP cable package isn't cheap - it costs
£85 a month - but you get up to 20Mbps broadband
and home phone, including anytime UK landline
calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers and discounted
international calls, around 125 TV channels plus Sky
Movies, Sky Sports and Setanta Sports. You also get a
V+ box that gives you access to Virgin's high-definition
TV channel and doubles as a PVR,plus a standard
cable set-top box so the kids can watch different
channels in another room.
Can't get cable? Pay Sky a one-off fee of £99 plus
£70 a month for anytime calls, a PVR, access to its TV
plus Sky Sports and Movies - which you can
watch intwo rooms- and up to 16Mbpsbroadband.
Pay £80 a month for all that plus Setanta Sports. You
also pay BT line rental of £10.50 to £12.50 a month.
Ifyou want a new mobilephone
In the market for a new mobile? It's worth checking to
see what bundles are out there. For example, if you
spend £30 or more a month on your mobile bill, try
Orange's mobile plus free broad band deal. You'll be
tied in for 18 months - though that's becoming more
common for mobiles - and you'll have to settle for up
to 2Mbps broadband
with a 2GB usage cap unless
you pay an extra £5 a month. A word of caution Orange did badly in our last broad band satisfaction
survey (see Which?, August 2007, p40) with only 18 per
cent very satisfied customers
BT Fusion, Utility Warehouse
To keep costs down, get a pay-as-you-go
offers up to 8Mbps broadband with a 40GB cap, line
rental and anytime calls to 01, 02 and 03 numbers for
£16.39 a month in LLU-enabled areas.
If you live in a cable area, for £30 a month Virgin
Media offers up to 2Mbps unlimited broadband,
landline rental and anytime calls to 01, 02, and 03
numbers, plus a mobile Sim-only deal including 300
anytime, any network minutes and 300 texts a month.
Sky's start-level digital TV includes up to 2Mbps
broadbandwith a 2GBcapfor £15a month- and pay
242 premier league games available on
£18 extra to get access to its sports channels.
for £1.99 a game. BT Vision also lets you subscribe
the £30 BT Vision box you can get with
Option 1 (£17.99 monthly for a 5GB cap
and up to 8Mbps service) gives you access to
from 10pm on the day they are played
to Setanta Sports (£9.99 a month), which shows
in the table - although it offershome phone,
broadband, mobile and TV, they are not
strictly bundles. Its broadband services do
include some free calls, but these are over
your broadband connection (Voip), rather
than over a standard landline.
your key considerations, our table can help.
Bear in mind that we've given only the basic
details and the monthly price - you'll need
to take into account things like equipment
and connection costs, call charges and
technical helpline costs, too.
We've included all the major bundle
providers around - even if we don't have
enough respondents to rate them all for
satisfaction - and have picked the cheapest
package availablefrom each one.BT is not
services they come with. TalkTalk's free
broadbandwith Talk2 International callplan
costs just £16.39 a month, for example.
If you had the same home phone service
with TalkTalkplus an equivalent broadband
package from UtilityWarehouse, say,you'd
pay £34.38 a month.
Do consider whether the overall package suits your needs, oryou could end up
tied to a long deal that isn't suitable foryou.
None the less, if price and convenience are
Most providers combine home phone
with broadband; Orange combines mobile
with broadband. See 'Which bundle should
you choose?', p25, ifyou fancy expanding
your bundle beyond these options.
~-I~' 1- '-7
VIRGIN MEDIA (1,587)Cable
VIRGIN MEDIA Non-cable
£~ !.l .
a Plusinternationalcallsto 10countries b Plusinternationalcallsto 36 countries c Includesline rental payableto 81 d Advertisedas one-monthcontract,but you must payafee if you cancelwithin 12months:
we regardthis as a 12-monthcontract e Via a Freeviewbox f Insufficientrespondentsto give ratings 9 Ifyou take out a 12-monthcontractyou get free line activation h Limit of 500 minutesa month j Free
broadbandwith £30+ monthlymobile package k Fairusagepolicyapplies during peak hoursof 6-11pmof 2.7G8a week m Availableonlyto Vodafonepay-monthlymobilecustomers.Includes£20 mobilecontract
USING THE TABLE
We list the cheapest
available from each provider.
Number of customers
Monthly cost Assumes
debit payment. We've added on
line rental if it's not inciuded in the
for each provider in brackets
bundle. Cost shown in brackets
- figures given for Sky and Virgin
Media are overall and cannot be
greater outside of LLU areas
(see 'Jargon buster', p24).
split between the LLU/non-LLU
Services included in cheapest
261 October 2007
the given monthly cost.
M=mobile; TV=television. Calls
included Voip exciuded. Inciusive
home-phone calls during
E=evening; W=weekend; A=
anytime. Maximum broadband
speed Download speed only, as
advertised by the provider.
that are available as part
of a bundle from the provider. May
not be part of cheapest
Percentage of customers who are
very satisfied with the overall
bundled seNice they receive.
Do you just want a phone service? Our home phone survey will help you choose
As you can see from the table,'
right, our survey into home-phone
services suggests that smaller
companies, such as Toucan and
Utility Warehouse, have more
satisfied home-phone customers
than big boys BT and Virgin
Media. But spare a thought for
those living in the area around
Hull: they have no choice but to
use Kingston Communications as
their landline supplier and it's right
at the bottom of our table.
What to look out for
If you opt for paper billing or
Price vs service
say it's because
it costs them more to process
Bear in mind that with the 'free'
broadband deals on offer from
a £8.99 if youtake out a 12-monthcontract b Includes£1.76a month compulsorymembership
of UtilityWarehousec 12monthsif new line needed d 15-daynoticeperiod e One monthfor
callsonly f Availableto existingcustomersonly.Servicedetailsdepend onwhen youjoined,
checkyour bill for details. 9 50p monthlydiscountif manageaccountonline
number to benefit from a reduced
USING THE TABLE
rate. 18185.co.uk charges just
Sample size in brackets.
O.5p a minute to call the US, for
Line rental Paper billing.
Assumes direct debit.
'free' usually applies only to UK
land line numbers that start with
01, 02 or 03.
on the calls you
make, you may prefer to pay
more for line rental if the company
rates to numbers
you call regularly.
You can save money on
international calls or to numbers
that aren't included
in your deal
- such as 0870 - by using a prefix
provider. You dial a prefix number
before the main telephone
rates of10-15p a minute.
Does free mean free?
Orange, Sky and TalkTalk,you'll
be committing yourselfto a long
contract for the paid-for part of
the service. There are likely to
be extra costs, such as Sky's £40
connection fee or Orange's
50p-a-minute technical helpline.
Line rental Some bundle
providers don't offer phone line
rental. This means you'll have to
pay another company for line
rental - probably BT,at a cost
of £10.50 to £12.50 a month.
. Postcode lottery Anyone
When we asked people about
contract term. Assumes
who lives in an area where a
their prefix providers
line rental is paid to the
company hasn't installed its own
equipment in BT exchanges may
have to pay extra.
Haggle Ifthe advertised deal
isn't exactly what you need, ask
the company what it can do for
you - like Tim Peacock, p24.
Switching If you get several
services as part ofa bundle,
you're more likely to be tied in
for a longer period for all of
them. Check before you sign up.
in our survey
(see 'Our research', below), both
18185.co.uk and Call1899.com
had more than 60 per cent very
who are very satisfied
with their service.
AOL 0800 200 6045
BT 0800 085 7343; www.btcom
Force9 0114296 5197
Nildram 0800 1971474
Onetel 0845 818 8000
Orange 0800 079 2000
Pipex 0845 0772455
Pipex Homecall 0870 143 0838
providers, see Which?,
September 2007, p62, and
August 2007, p40.
or TalkTalk, won't let you pay by
other than direct debit.
Best Buy status. For Best Buy
mobile and broadband
Some providers, such as Tesco
When choosing a package that
includes free calls, remember that
can save money, but although
some companies score highly
for part of each bundle, none
scores highly enough for its
overall bundle service to warrant
choose not to pay by direct debit,
you may have to pay an additional
Essential bundling advice
0114 296 5198
Post Office 0800 092 0500
Sky 08705800874; www.sky.com
Supanet 0800 915 8188
TalkTalk 0800 049 7831
Tesco 0800 068 0818
Tiscali 0800 107 9000
Toucan 0800 061 3612
0871 222 7777
Virgin Media 0845 840 7777
Vodafone 0808 040 8408